Posts Tagged 'forgiveness'

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

My husband, Randy, turns 50 years old today! He has been a stepparent to my two girls for 17 years.

He will be the first to tell you he has done a lot of things wrong. But his stepdaughters love him dearly.

It hasn’t always been that way.

Jodi (left) was almost three when we married and Jamie (right) was five. Randy had a difficult time with Jamie from the beginning. She didn’t want another dad in her life and she made that clear to him.

He overheard a conversation between the two girls one night in the bathtub during our first year of marriage. “I hate him too, I can’t believe Mom married him,” Jamie told Jodi. There was little love, or even like, between Randy and the girls in the beginning.

During our second year of marriage, Randy left the house one evening and called from a nearby hotel. “I’m not coming home tonight. I’m not sure I’m coming home again. I can’t deal with the ongoing conflict between me and you and the kids.”

It was a tough season. Blending four children ages 3-10 and learning how to parent together was harder than we anticipated. But neither of us wanted to endure another divorce.  Randy and I began counseling that year to work through the bumps.

During her teen-age years, Jamie challenged us on every turn. If Randy punished her in any way, she threatened to call Child Protective Services. She ran away more times than I can remember (but thankfully never went far). And after one particularly aggravating day with defiant behavior, Randy took Jamie’s cell phone and threw it to the ground. As it busted into several pieces, Jamie began yelling at us both. The night didn’t end well. And I wasn’t sure the sun would come up the next day.

But it did. And Randy didn’t give up on his stepparenting role with Jamie.

When she came into driving age, Randy wanted to teach her to drive. She tested every ounce of his patience. They would come in from a driving session hardly talking to one another–Jamie’s anger brewing over. But the next day, they were at it again.

During her high school years, Jamie participated in competitve cheerleading. Randy would jokingly say, “Do you call cheerleading a sport?” The ongoing drama with other cheerleaders, out-of-town competitions, and continuous suction cup to his wallet threw Randy into stress overdrive. His grumpiness overshadowed his joy at times. But he didn’t quit supporting Jamie and the things that made her tick.

Do you have to be a perfect stepparent to have a meaningful relationship with your stepchildren? NO!

Randy’s stepdaughters, Jodi (19) and Jamie (22), love their imperfect stepdad.

Why? How did that happen?

Randy never quit. He got up when he fell down. He sought help when he needed answers. He cried. He  prayed. He struggled. He fought. He apologized. He forgave. He smiled with gritted teeth. But he never quit.

When he fell down, he got up. He prayed some more. He sought help again. He struggled harder. He cried again. He forgave some more.                        But… he got up when he fell down. 

Is it a cycle? Yes. You take one step forward and two steps backward. You celebrate a season of growth, then start a season of despair. You gain the insider status one day and feel like an outcast the next.

Does that mean you failed?

No.

You fail when you quit.

The easy road is the quitter’s road. The majority of stepparents take that road.

But if you signed up for the race, your stepchildren deserve a finish.

I know it’s not easy. I know you want to quit. But you’ve been given an opportunity to influence a young child’s life like no one else can. In an imperfect way.

Will you take the challenge? Will you commit to the journey? Will you get up when you fall down? I hope so.

Because my husband will tell you: there are rewards to stepparenting, even when you’re not perfect…but they’re at the end of the journey.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Related Posts:

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Creates Bitter Quitters in Blended Families

As A Stepfamily, You Can Expect Challenges

You Don’t Have to be Super Stepmom

Five Ways to Create Stronger Stepfamily Relationships

I was married to a physician turned alcoholic in my first marriage, and toward the end of that 11-year-union, I learned to apply the slogans of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to cope with my everyday challenges.

But AA slogans shouldn’t be confined to only problems in alcoholic relationships. When I entered a stepfamily upon marrying the second time, I quickly recognized the value of the AA slogans in stepfamily relationships.

 Here are a few examples of AA slogans and how to use them to create stronger stepfamily relationships:

1) Let go and let God

In the beginning of our marriage,we encountered countless problems in our stepfamily that were beyond my power to fix. I spent wasted time trying to control the situation or find a solution. When I learned to let go and let God be in control, I found the peace I’d been searching for. Solutions to our challenges didn’t surface quickly, but I knew God’s solutions would always be better than mine.

2) Let it begin with me and Be part of the solution, not the problem

As the adult, we need to step up and be the example for forgiveness, kindness, patience, and goodness toward our stepchildren. When they see us model this behavior, they are more likely to extend the same type of behavior toward us.

It’s also our responsibility to work toward a solution. I often see stepparents ruminating over their problems with others instead of seeking solutions. We become what we focus on – will you choose to focus on the problem or a solution?

3) How important is it?

It’s easy to escalate small issues into big boulders. I clearly remember a conflict ten years ago that I created. I insisted that all our children should attend my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. My stepdaughter, who was living with her mom at the time and had a strained relationship with me, didn’t want to go. I was angry when my husband couldn’t force her to be there and I made a big deal out of it, creating further conflict with my husband.

Fast forward ten years. My parents are celebrating their 60th annivesary next month. My stepdaughter and I have mended our ways and she wants to participate in the celebration! Many of the battles we deem important enough to fight will work themselves out over time.

4) One day at a time

Building trust takes time, change takes time, healing old wounds takes time; there are no immediate ready-made solutions. This day is all I have to work with, and it is all I need. If I am tempted to worry about tomorrow’s concerns, I will gently bring my mind back to today.” (Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon)

Living one day at a time allows us to focus on the problems at hand, letting go of the problems of yesterday, and trusting God with the problems of tomorrow.

5) Keep an open mind

Stepfamily relationships evolve over time.  Sometimes they get worse before they get better. But if we keep an open mind to different solutions when current ones aren’t working and remain flexible as we encounter change, we will have a better chance at long-term success in our relationships.  It’s also important to stay united with our spouse, keeping open to their thoughts and ideas on what is happening in our home.

Other slogans of AA that can be applied to the stepfamily journey also include: Easy does it, first things first, just for today, keep it simple, listen and learn, live and let live, and think. If you’re interested in learning more about their slogans you can go here.  I find Al-Anon resources (for families of alcoholics) helpful also.

I love AA slogans and can find ways to apply them every day. Do you agree?

How will you use an AA slogan to create stronger relationships in your stepfamily or have you applied one already? Will you share it with us?

Related Posts:

As a Stepfamily, You Can Expect Challenges

Steps for Successful Stepparenting

 


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